Brian Aucone

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  • Graduated in 1998 with a degree in Biology and is from Northglenn, Colo.
  • Manages the care of 600-plus species of animals at the Denver Zoo
  • Holds a special place in his heart for reptiles
  • Enjoys discovering solutions for animal behavioral problems

Providing leadership at
the Denver Zoo

Mimi's trunk eagerly reaches out for the carrots in Brian Aucone's hand. With more than 10,000 pounds of elephant towering above him, Brian seems completely at ease.

As Vice President for Animal Collections at the Denver Zoo, Brian is closely involved with the planning and construction of Asian Tropics, a $50 million exhibit that will feature Mimi, a 52-year-old Asian elephant, and her companion, 47-year-old Dolly.

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But Brian's work doesn't stop there; he also manages a team of nearly 80 staff members and the care of more than 3,500 animals. This is a position he's worked for since beginning his zoology career nearly 15 years ago as a UNC intern.

When Brian started college, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was drawn to UNC's Biology program because of its wide range of classes focused on animal groups at the species level. While he was here, he made valuable connections with faculty members, including his advisor and fellow reptile fan, Dr. Stephen MacKessy.

Brian knew he needed hands-on experience, so Dr. MacKessy helped him connect with the Denver Zoo. It was during his internship that Brian began learning the skills that have helped him excel in his field. His responsibilities which included cleaning the bat cave and caring for baby komodo dragons prepared him to work closely with animals and develop the skills necessary to properly care for them.

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After spending his first two years in Denver, Brian moved on to work at the Dallas and Oklahoma City zoos. Now he's returned to continue excellence in animal care and improve how visitors and donors experience the animals through public presentation programs, zookeeper chats and new exhibits. It's his job to envision what the future of these programs will look like and in what ways the zoo can continue to expand its offerings.

"It's my job to ensure the highest quality of animal care and improve how visitors and donors experience the animals, and I love working with members of my team to make that happen."

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